I had the NFL Red Zone network playing on a recent Sunday when a wide receiver scored a touchdown.
This receiver had gone undrafted years before but became a star in the league regardless.
When diamond-in-the-rough people like this NFL player succeed, we are treated to story after story of this person’s miraculous rise to success.
These stories, while touching, trick people into thinking they can get struck by lightning, too. People are inspired to think they can be the next one-in-a-million.
Problem: No one tells the stories of the 999,999 out of the million who didn’t hit the lottery.
For every undrafted athlete who grows into stardom, there are 1,000 undrafted players who never play even one minute in the league.
In basketball, for example, height is a talent.
The taller you are, the better your chances of “making it” in basketball.
That’s just what it is.
This is not a provable fact without assigning numbers to “height,” but we can call it a truth. And you know it: when you see a group of tall and lanky guys (or girls) together, your first assumption is “basketball players.”
And you’re usually right.
I’m 6’4”. Had I done the same amount of work on my basketball game, and had the same mindset, all while being 5’9” — my father’s height — I would’ve had a hard time making it at every level of the game, starting with high school.
Whenever I’ve published this idea of height mattering a lot for basketball success, I get the expected blowback from two groups of people.
1) The “undersized” players who take my point as a personal attack on their hoop dreams.
While I do understand that my position may be a voice in direct opposition to their goals, I’m not the one who made the rules, nor am I the one who made them stop growing at 5’6”.
Don’t blame the messenger.
2) The coach / trainer / motivator who looks for truth-sharers like me to fight against the truth with all the “belief” one can muster.
This person often doubles as the extreme genius who points out the existence of NBA veterans Nate Robinson (5’9”) and Spud Webb (5’7”) as a counterpoint to my height declaration.
For both of these people, and everyone else who thinks it “negative” to point a truth, understand something: the exceptions are the very reason for the rules.
The basketball fan who can name every sub-6-foot NBA player in history is proving the point: you can name them. You can literally count them out (the ones you know about, at least) on your hands.
How many 6’5” players can you name?
The examples of people and outcomes that go against the grain and succeed against the odds make for great stories. Some parts of my own life fit this description, even.
These stories don’t necessarily mean that everyone else can do it too. And it damn sure doesn’t mean that everyone else should try.
Exceptions are just that: exceptions.
Many more short players fall short (pun intended) in basketball than those who make it.
Most people who get shot at a close range get hit by bullets than dodge them.
Damn near everyone who plays the lottery loses.
Go after what you want to go after, if you wish, odds and rules be damned.
Just don’t do so as an uninformed dreamer.
We are better off playing the rules — they’re higher probability, and much more predictable.
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